Un-Possessing, and Yet...

My thirteenth year was wearing on
Grazing the lambs, one day I was
Beyond the village.The sun shone
Perhaps ? Or was it without cause ?
Such joy, such joy, as at the throne
Of God I felt . . .
They'd called already for our food,
But I, among the weeds, remained
Alone, and prayed to God. Indeed,
Why I, a small boy, wished to pray
So eagerly, I do not know,
Nor how my happiness was caused.
Around, the village and the Lord's
Sky, the lambs, it seemed, rejoiced,
The sun shone warm - yet did not scorch.

Not long the sun shone fair and warm,
Not long my prayers I murmured,
The sun blazed fiery red above,
And set this heaven burning.
As if aroused from sleep, I looked:
The village had grown dark,
Even God's azure sky above
That too was cheerless, stark.
I turned my eyes towards the lambs
These lambs were not mine;
I looked yonder to the houses
No home there I'd find.
God did not give me anything

And tears started flowing . . .
Bitter tears . . . But a young girl,
Over by the roadside,
Only a few steps away,
Was plucking hemp, and she
Heard my sobs,came to my side
And spoke kind words to me,
Gently wiped away my tears,
And kissed me tenderly.

It seemed once more the sun shone bright,
As if the whole wide world were mine:
The fields, the spinneys, and the orchards . . .
And laughing, we began to drive
Those lambs, that were not ours, to water.
Idle dreams, indeedl But even
Now, when I recall, my heart
Aches, weeps: why, God, let me not pass
My little span in that dear heaven ?
Ploughing the field I would have died,
Ignorant of it all, would not
Have lived on earth an outcast's life
Would not have cursed both men and (God)!

(Taras Shevchenko, 1814-1861)

Note: My son lives in Winnipeg. In front of the Manitoba legislature one finds a statue of Shevchenko. Many stories are told of the heroism and hardiness of Ukrainian newcomers spending their first harsh winters in our cold, snow-bound west, "the people of the sod huts".

(Scroll at the right to the link Materials on Shevchenko)


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